When schools were forced to close and transition to an online format, after-school programs were given the choice to suspend their services until schools reopen or adapt to a digital format as well. With their programs at John M. Marshall Elementary School, Springs School and the Neighborhood House temporarily cancelled for the first time ever, Project MOST made the decision to enter the new frontier of virtual learning.
“Our commitment to student growth is adapting to the moment we are faced with,” says Project MOST Executive Director Rebecca Morgan Taylor. “In an otherwise overwhelming and unprecedented time for our students, we want to offer consistency and a creative outlet.” That contribution to the enrichment of East End children comes in the form of their new Distance Learning Lab on their YouTube channel. Videos are posted daily that teach children (and adults, too) about art, dance, yoga, science, cooking and other topics. Each class is taught by a one of the program’s skillful instructors and contains around 20–30 minutes of creativity and movement. To date, the channel features classes in hip hop dance, battle sheets, kids yoga and more.
“There is no handbook for raising a family during social distancing. This is a challenging time for everyone, and every child is different,” Taylor remarks, recommending a New York Times article by clinical psychologist Dr. Madeline Levine that she found helpful in determining how best to explain COVID-19 to your children. “We understand this is a challenging time for families balancing remote workspaces, remote learning and brand-new household dynamics, all while the news cycle seems more uncertain and worrisome by the day. Kids look to us, adults, for a sense of security and confidence that may feel more difficult to offer,” she continues. “It’s critical we find ways to manage stress and anxiety and seek help if we need it. If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others call 911 or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990) or text TalkWithUs to 66746.”
During this uncertain time when some family members have been laid off from work and others are on the front line of the healthcare field, Project MOST’s capacity to subsidize extracurricular programs during work hours is more vital than ever. Annually, the organization provides more than $100,000 in financial assistance to year-round programming, such as the annual iGrow Summer Learning Lab, a nine-week summer camp for children ages 5–13 that delves into the natural and cultural environment of the East End. “We are ready to welcome back students as soon as it is deemed safe by the various agencies setting the current protocol,” she says.
Project MOST is able to continue offering enriching programming through aid from grants at the state and local levels, as well as from independent contributors. “We need support from our friends and neighbors to help fund our scholarship program and support families on the East End,” Taylor notes. Donations can be made at projectmost.org/donate.